March 24, 2004

I See a Darkness

* The New Yorker's John Anderson says that Baghdad is a much more dangerous place than it was a year ago.


"The fall of Saddam has improved the lives of many Iraqis, especially professionals such as doctors, engineers, and teachers, whose salaries have significantly increased. And the streets are clogged with traffic, which wasn?t true before the war. A great many Iraqis took advantage of the temporary suspension of import duties at the border with Jordan and bought cheap secondhand cars. The Internet, which was strictly controlled under Saddam, is available everywhere, as are a wide variety of computers, domestic appliances, and cell phones. These life-style improvements notwithstanding, very few people venture out on the streets after dark, and almost no one I know dares drive after ten-thirty. This is because of the staggering increase in the number of rapes, murders, armed robberies, carjackings, and kidnappings. Saddam emptied the country?s prisons a few months before the war, and perhaps a hundred thousand criminals returned to the streets. Young girls are now walked to and from school by their fathers or brothers, for fear they might be snatched. Women generally dress much more modestly than they did before, wearing either baggy black abayas or helmet-like hijab head scarves."

* Journalist apologizes for his coverage of the Iraq war. excerpt:

"Gradually, it dawned on me that the military had herded us into the press center so that we could be kept away from information.

"The press center was sealed off from the rest of the base, and access was controlled by armed guards. A reporter's contact with military personnel of any rank was controlled by a press officer.

"All military personnel, except the press officers, were restricted to the base, so there was no opportunity, as in past wars, for reporters to meet officers or enlisted men for candid appraisals of the fighting as it unfolded.

"The entire anti-information campaign was run by a Texan named Jim Wilkinson, a Republican political operative who once worked for former U.S. Rep. Dick Armey.

"Wilkinson, now communications deputy for National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, was one of a score of Republican operatives who descended on Florida during the balloting recount in the 2000 presidential campaign. Wilkinson also helped sell the impression that Al Gore claimed to "Despite his penchant for desert camouflage uniforms and military jargon, Wilkinson, a civilian, was essentially a political commissar who controlled information about the war as if he were running{<>} an election campaign.

"His assignment was to keep the operation 'on message.'"
"In retrospect, I realize now that I should have filed a story the first day of the war saying that no information was coming from Central Command.

"Although most reporters individually treated the press operation with the disdain it so richly deserved, there were no stories revealing it for what it was.

"There were no publishers making angry phone calls to the Pentagon or the White House -- no letters, no outrage.

"In this, we all failed the American public."

* Drudge's anti-Kerry campaign.


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